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Old 03-25-2009, 06:07 PM
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Orchid Mythbusting

I've decided to take a page from one of my favorite TV shows and apply it to my favorite pastime. In this thread I hope to take popular orchid myths, try to find out what is behind the myth and then either confirm or bust it.

If you have an orchid myth you'd like me to examine, please send it to me via PM through the orchid forum. I'd like to keep this thread as "lean" as possible so if you have comments you'd like to add, please send them to me via PM.

Cheers!

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Old 03-25-2009, 06:21 PM
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Myth #1 - How to tell the age of an orchid

The myth: You can tell the age of a phalaenopsis by counting the leaves.

This myth says you can tell the age of a phalaenopsis by counting the leaves since a phal grows only one leaf per year.

There are 2 problems with this myth:
1) With good culture phals can put out more than one leaf per year, and
2) Phal leaves are not persistent. Old leaves die and fall off.

This myth seems to come from the understanding that some orchids produce only one growth per year. A few actually do. Most others do not. While some sympodial orchids do take one year go through an entire sprout-grow-mature-flower-rest cycle, one plant can have several leads each of which produce a growth. My Coelogyne flaccida is one such plant. It does take a full year for it to go through the full cycle spelled out above, but it also has 7 leads on it so this year, eventhough it is in a relatively small pot, it produced 7 new growths. One could not accurately gauge the age of my plant by counting the growth.

As many of you know with phals, there is a great deal of variety and growth habit among the species and so the way a hybrid produces depends heavily on the parentage. Some seem to hold their leaves for a very long time while others consistently shed leaves, never having more than 5-6 leaves even on a very healthy, mature plant.

Conclusion: Myth Busted

-------------------------------

If you'd like to comment on this myth or if you have an orchid myth you'd like me to examine, please PM me through the forum.
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Old 03-25-2009, 10:05 PM
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Good going Kevin, Mythbusters is one of my favorite shows!!!! Are you Jamie or are you Adam? Do you prefer to be daring????
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Old 03-26-2009, 12:31 AM
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Old 03-26-2009, 03:53 AM
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Do you prefer to be daring????
Only in things intellectual and creative. In other realms (i.e. physical) I'm about as tame as they come.

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"I reject your reality and substitute my own."
I do this several times a day.
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Old 03-26-2009, 07:33 PM
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Myth #2: Ice, Ice Baby

The myth: You can water your phal by placing 3 ice cubes on top of the mix once a week.

Like most myths, there is a tiny bit of truth lurking in the background. I usually hear the ice cube myth in reference to phals and cymbidiums. Most of the commonly grown cymbidiums do require a cool autumn in order to initiate flowering, and the general rule of thumb to get a phal to flower is to give it a dirunal (day/night) temp drop of 10-15F in the autumn. So someone thinks, "Geee, ice cools things down so if I put ice on my orchids it will make them flower."

The problems with this line of reasoning are many: 1) a few ice cubes can not a seasonal change make, 2) the ice cube method I've been hearing lately - things like what CharliesAngels heard, 3 ice cubes once a week - don't seem to relate at all to any of the bloom triggers of cymbids or phals - a once a week shock of icy water versus a seasonal change in temperatures, 3) ice cubes don't mimic any of the natural conditions a species phal or cymbid might encounter in the wild. Phals come mostly from trpoical areas where they'd rarely if ever get an icy rain, 4) The amount of water in 3 ice cubes isnt' nearly enough to adequately water a phal, especially a larger one, and doesn't take into consideration the environmental conditions that affect watering frequency.

Another problem arises with respect to water volume. Another orchidgeek member raised the question when they posted:
Quote:
Originally Posted by CulpableCaptive View Post
Ice cubes come in different sizes and would therefore total up to a different amount (ccs or ounces) of water. Pot size and plant size vary as well. ... Three ice cubes on a three inch pot is a lot more water than 3 ice cubes on a 6 or 8 inch pot, holding a plant three times as large.
Three of your average size ice cubes is approximately 100ml or about 1/3 cup. This is simply not adequate for weekly watering for the vast majority of orchids commonly found in home hobby collections.

Conclusion: Myth Busted

-------------------------------

If you'd like to comment on this myth or if you have an orchid myth you'd like me to examine, please PM me through the forum.
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Old 03-26-2009, 10:39 PM
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Hummm...no short cuts then. Makes sense to me. I really like reading this thread. Thanks.
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Old 03-27-2009, 01:17 AM
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I love this thread, very helpful!!
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Old 04-04-2009, 08:44 PM
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Myth #3: Put Out the Lights

The myth: To get your orchids to flower, put them in a dark basement for the winter.

Over the years I've heard 3 or 4 different versions of this myth. Some say to put them in a paper bag (sometimes with an apple) under the sink for 3 months or 6 months.

I'll start by getting the obvious problems out of the way.
1) "Orchids"....what orchids are we talking about here? Phals? Mormodes? Pterostylus? My mixed collection? I have 12 different genera, should I chuck themALL down the cellar? Any time someone says, "orchids need..." or "orchids want..." or "to get your orchids to..." the warning bells should go off and a giant sign should flash through your brain that says: WARNING!!! OVER GENERALIZATIONS AHEAD!!!
2) While orchids are found in nearly every climate (except the Arctic and Antarctic) none of the orchid inhabiting climates experience complete darkness for an entire winter. Thus in the wild no orchid would experience 3 months of complete darkness. It is true that some orchids loose their leaves or in some cases all leaves and stems appearing above ground. Pterostylus, an Australian native terrestrial dies off in spring and survives underground only as a small tuber for about 6 months over the hot dry summer months only to emerge in Autumn when it is cooler and the rains start to fall. One could argue that this plant experiences 6 months of darkness underground. The catch is that this orchid has developed in a highly specialized way that enables it do do exactly that, to survive underground as a little corm during the dry season. The orchids that make up the vast majority of our collections do not posses these specialized structures which makes them ill-suited to survive months of complete darkness.
3) This myth overlooks the fact that many (most?) of our orchids flower...in winter! Many phals, dendrobiums, coelogyne, cattleyas/laelias, paphs, phrags, etc., etc. all flower in winter. Having them in a bag in a dark basement is more likely to interrupt their flowering cycle than it is to initiate it.

As with most of these myths, if you dig deep enough, get past the inaccuracies, over generalizations, glaring errors in logic, and simple lack of knowledge about orchids, you can usually find a few grains of truth. Fundamentally this myth is about initiating a flowering cycle. Every orchid has what I call a "bloom trigger" which, simply put, is that which causes the orchid to initiate its flowering cycle (e.g. spike). Because many orchids flower seasonally it is difficult to tell if there is one specific trigger like temperature alone or if more then one trigger operates together (like temperature along with rainfall or day length). There are 2 (possibly 3) bloom triggers at work in this myth: 1) temperature - i.e. the cool basement, and 2) light - that somehow dark triggers flowering, and possibly 3) reduced water - i.e. a cool dry winter. Let's look at these factors one by one:

Temperature: Some orchids' flowering cycles are triggered by temperature events. We know that many phals' spike in Autumn after receiving a diurnal temperature variation of 10-15F. Australian native dendrobiums flower in winter when it is cool. So temperature is certainly a factor in some bloom triggers.

Light: Although I know of no study that has been done that actually verifies that day-length/night-length serves as a bloom trigger I believe it is generally accepted by the orchid community that length of day/night does indicate to the orchid that a seasonal change is at hand thereby initiating a flowering cycle. I regularly hear and see it written that when growing under lights, the length of time the lights are on should be shortened in winter and lengthened in summer. I've done this myself when I grew under lights. And I have never heard a single dissenting voice except to say that it's probably not necessary for orchids that come from the equatorial zone where the day/night length is nearly the same year round. The belief is that longer days in summer trigger vegetative growth: more light = greater ability for a plant to produce energy for itself and that shorter days signal the end of vegetative growth and the start of a flowering cycle.

Reduced Water: Again it is true that some orchids experience a drier winter than summer (thus cooler temps happen along with drier conditions and shorter days) and that some commonly grown orchids (e.g. nobile-type dens) need this drying out (not giving them this can result in heavy keiki-ing rather than flowering). But again this is suggested as a possible bloom trigger for some but not all orchids.

As is the case with all the myths we've looked at so far there is a bit of truth in nearly every aspect of this myth but those kernels of truth have been inundated with gross over generalizations and misapplications, not to mention a fundamental lack of knowledge about how orchids really grow.

Conclusion: Myth Busted

-------------------------------

If you have an orchid myth you'd like me to examine, please PM me through the forum.
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Old 04-05-2009, 01:15 AM
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Yes busted allll I REALLY dislike the ice cube thing. My friend bought a phal at Wal-mart and it had the ice cube thing. She called me just to ask if it is really true. Yes I went to her house within 24 hours after having her soak bark, brought her a clear plastic pot and we repotted the pretty healthy phal. I also brought over two phals in different stages of my watering schedule so she can tell by lifting them when hers will need water. Good thing it was 60 outside that day Tara
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Old 04-05-2009, 02:32 AM
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Wow, you're a FANTASTIC orchid friend Tara! I wish everyone could be tutored through the process like that. Very helpful I'm sure. Cheers for you!!!
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Old 04-05-2009, 07:17 AM
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Kevin your myths are as interesting as the mythbusters,some great points being raised and addressed!!!!
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Old 07-27-2009, 06:59 PM
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Man, I wish I had someone like you around Tara. I just got a new orchid and I could use some hands on learning, especially when it comes to watering. I am afraid to over water or allow it to dry out too much.
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Old 07-27-2009, 08:19 PM
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Can I try again at the "overwatering causes root rot" myth?
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Old 07-27-2009, 09:19 PM
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Can I try again at the "overwatering causes root rot" myth?
Hi Ray, as I mentioned in the into to this thread:
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If you have an orchid myth you'd like me to examine, please send it to me via PM through the orchid forum. I'd like to keep this thread as "lean" as possible so if you have comments you'd like to add, please send them to me via PM.
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Old 09-07-2009, 08:35 PM
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Myth #4: To repot or not ...THAT is the question...

The myth: Never repot an orchid when it is in flower.

I've debated back and forth whether to post this as a myth or not but decided to go ahead and post about it because we do get quite a lot of questions about this on the forum.

The myth (I even hesitate to call it a myth, maybe misnomer is a better word for it) is partially based on the belief that flowers will be lost if an orchid is repotted while in flower and partially based on the belief/practice that the best time to repot an orchid is either during its rest phase or just after new growth starts.

Of course, right off the bat, we see a problem that we have seen repeatedly: over generalization. Not all orchids go through a distinctive grow-flower-rest cycle. I often see phals for example flowering and growing a new leaf at the same time. Several orchidgeeks members (some of whom are very experienced with phals) routinely repot, straight-away, any phal they bring home, regardless if it is in flower or not. Any flower loss or minor set backs resulting from repotting a phal in bloom is less than the risk of loosing the entire plant to root rot from having been packed in old, stale, waterlogged mix.

If the orchid in question was a Cattleya Alliance orchid, I'd agree with the statement to not repot while in flower. I would recommend waiting until after flowering when it enters a brief rest phase or when new growth starts.

If the orchid were one of the types that sulk after repotting, I'd recommend infrequent repotting at any stage and especially not when in flower.

So like many orchid myths, this one is a vague over generalization. Depending on which orchid you're talking about, it could be absolutely true or completely false.

Conclusion: Myth Busted or Confirmed (depending on what kind of orchid you're talking about)

-------------------------------

If you have an orchid myth you'd like me to examine, please PM me through the forum.
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Old 07-04-2010, 02:54 AM
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Great thread Kmarch,
We need clarity with myths and misconceptions I never believe what I hear or read unless its been brought up before this forum and picked apart and sorted out. Thanks for linking your thread to the ice cube thread I didn't know this thread existed.... And thank you again Kmarch for taking the tie to create and continue this thread. I am one who greatly appreciates this, you, and all your effort.
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Old 07-04-2010, 05:34 PM
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No. 1 myth busted indeed!

I have a phal I bought in march, nice white flowers. In the middle of may, it started togrow a new leaf. Now, after a month and a half, with that leaf not fully grown yet, it's starting to grow another one!
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Old 10-10-2011, 05:20 PM
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I've been watering all 3 (now 4 bc I just bought another one) with ice cubes because that's what Home Depot told me to do. I guess I should switch to water instead. Thanks!
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Old 10-11-2011, 08:55 AM
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I've been watering all 3 (now 4 bc I just bought another one) with ice cubes because that's what Home Depot told me to do. I guess I should switch to water instead. Thanks!
Myth:Folks in stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Trader Joe's, etc., are experts at orchid culture, so should be relied upon for good information.

I think you busted that one yourself!
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:03 AM
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Myth:Folks in stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Trader Joe's, etc., are experts at orchid culture, so should be relied upon for good information.

I think you busted that one yourself!
Lol, actually tag on the plant said what to do. I didn't ask them anything except where to get orchid bark from. I don't think Home Depot waters their orchids with ice cubes either because all the plants I got from there have a bunch of water marks on the leaves.
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Old 10-17-2011, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by skiye021683 View Post
I don't think Home Depot waters their orchids with ice cubes either because all the plants I got from there have a bunch of water marks on the leaves.
By the tattered, bedraggled looks of some the plants at my local HDs, I think they may water them with a fire hose.
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Old 10-17-2011, 05:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Ray View Post
Myth:Folks in stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Trader Joe's, etc., are experts at orchid culture, so should be relied upon for good information.

I think you busted that one yourself!
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Old 09-24-2014, 01:27 PM
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Like home depot they send a lot of customers. LOL
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